The weekend of celebrations will culminate with fireworks after a military parade on Sunday. The sense of unity and pride in Singapore's achievements was reinforced with a tribute video dedicated to its founder and longest serving leader, Lee Kuan Yew, who died in March at age 91, after running a virtually one-party state.
To Lee and his cohort of leaders, setting Singapore on the path of economic success meant putting in place tough policies to try to harmonize a racial mix of majority Chinese and minority Malays and Indians.
Lee, who was prime minister for more than three decades, had no tolerance for political dissent. Opposition figures were either defeated in elections or taken to court on charges of defamation until they were bankrupt. The country's laws prohibit bankrupts from contesting elections.
His son, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, is now steering Singapore with similar restrictions, and is facing a general election expected to be held Sept. 12. The ruling People's Action Party, which holds 80 out 87 Parliament seats, suffered its worst results in 2011 elections.
Most of the mainstream media are controlled by government-linked companies, and few independent news websites are wary of strict defamation laws that government leaders have often used to silence critics.
The Reporters Without Borders' 2015 World Press Freedom Index ranked Singapore 153rd of 180 countries, below Gambia and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
The government's recent moves to take a teenage blogger to court and require popular news sites to obtain licenses were met with outrage from the online community. But there were no street protests - demonstrations in Singapore can only be held in a designated area, the 0.97-hectare (2.4-acre) Hong Lim Park. All other gatherings require police permit.
"Robbing Singaporeans of freedom is like killing part of the nation's soul at any time. Is there a price on stealing a soul?" said senior research associate Bridget Welsh of the National Taiwan University's Center for East Asia Democratic Studies.
"Singaporeans would have made more progress if there had been more freedom, more ideas, more voices to address the country's challenges," she said.